DanceForce Member: Robin Collen
JoAnna Mendl Shaw Residency
Artist: JoAnna Mendl Shaw
Community Partner: St. Lawrence University, SUNY Potsdam
County: St. Lawrence
Goals and objectives of the project
There were two major goals for this project: (1) DanceForce member Robin Collen wanted to support JoAnna Mendl Shaw as an artist by introducing her to the dance and equine communities in the areas of Corning, Canton, and Potsdam. Hopefully JoAnna would interface with the equine communites in the future for an Equus Projects endeavor. (The Equus Projects is the name of her company.) (2) Robin wanted to engage the communities in and around Corning, Canton, and Potsdam, exposing them to JoAnna’s work as a teacher, choreographer, and creator of site-specific work with horses and dancers. She was particularly interested in introducing North Country audiences to the concept of outdoor site-specific choreography–an approach to choreography which has not been presented in the area.
• Robin contacted the Department of Theatre and Dance at SUNY Potsdam to see if it would provide funding and rehearsal space. She received space, plus funding for publicity.
• Robin contacted Kerri Canedy, a dance instructor at St. Lawrence University to see if she had funding and would like to participate in the residency. Kerri was very excited about the project and immediately committed $500.00.
• Robin contacted the Physical Plant at SUNY Potsdam and the Town of Potsdam Office to inquire about outdoor sites for site-specific work. She presented photographs of possible sites to JoAnna and JoAnna decided to use the Crane Plaza–an outdoor space at SUNY Potsdam.
• Lois Welk agreed to host JoAnna in Corning, NY, on her drive up to Potsdam, to screen JoAnna’s documentary and introduce JoAnna to members of the equine community.
• Robin organized the schedule for JoAnna’s residency–classes she would teach at SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University, where and when she would screen her documentary at each school, rehearsal schedules, publicity, and promotions. Robin interfaced with the SUNY Potsdam Physical Plant to obtain 200 folding chairs. Apples were an important prop for the dance. She arranged for and participated in a number of apple picking events with JoAnna, students, and community members.
Description of activities undertaken, with dates and times, highlighting different types of events
• Tuesday September 8, 5:30-7:30: DanceForce member Lois Welk hosted a party for JoAnna in Corning, attended by 15 members of the dance, arts, and equine communities from the surrounding areas. JoAnna was able to speak with almost everyone in attendance.
• Wednesday September 9, 9:00 a.m. JoAnna and Lois visited Palomino Acres Equine Services in Lindley, NY and spoke with Tammy Marsh about JoAnna’s equine work.
• Wednesday September 9, 1:30 p.m. JoAnna and Lois visited Painted Bar Stable in Burdett, NY and spoke with people about JoAnna’s equine work.
• Wednesday September 9. JoAnna and Lois met with Tammy Marsh, a high school biology teacher on a year-long sabbatical from the Corning School District who is developing programs that will benefit students, staff, and the community using Equine Assisted Learning. She published a book titled, Talk To Me – Round Pen Work From the Horse’s Point of View. Lois and JoAnna discussed how The Equus Projects might interface with Tammy’s EAL programming in the form of a movement workshop with equines that would be open to movers of all disciplines. JoAnna felt that Tammy’s farm and horses would be excellent for teaching a workshop for dancers.
• Wednesday September 9. JoAnna and Lois met with Erika Eckstrom, owner of The Painted Bar Stables in Watkins Glen, NY. Erika’s programming focuses on teen riders and she runs numerous programs out of her barn. JoAnna felt like the teen program at Painted Bar Stables would create a possible collaboration for a performance project created with young riders.
• Thursday September 10. JoAnna and Lois met with Karen Epstein at the Watson Homestead. JoAnna felt that this location would be a possible venue for workshops and performances.
• Friday September 11, 3:30-6:30. JoAnna and Robin visited two stables in the Potsdam/Canton area–Hemlock Hollow Farm and Honey Dew acres–and spoke to the owners about JoAnna’s work.
• Saturday September 12, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. JoAnna auditioned dancers for her site-specific work, cast the dance (17 performers), and began the rehearsal process.
• Saturday September 12, 7:00–9:00 p.m. JoAnna screened her documentary Hästdans på Hovdala and conducted a question/answer session in the Performing Arts Center at SUNY Potsdam. 80 people were in attendance. Håstdans på Hovdala is a film about a unique creation process. In July 2013, The Equus Projects spent three weeks in a Swedish forest creating an evening length theatre work that brought together four dancers, four horses and a cast of Swedish performers with autism. Filmmaker David Fishel follows the progression of the creation process, the equine training, and the deepening connection that develops between the human and equine performers.
• Sunday September 13, 11:00 a.m. JoAnna and Robin met with Kerri Canedy–the dance instructor at St. Lawrence University, and Kerri’s teaching assistant to discuss what JoAnna would be teaching to the SLU students.
• Sunday September 13, 1:00-5:00 p.m. JoAnna rehearsed with the cast.
• Monday September 14, 9:00 a.m. JoAnna and Robin met with the technical director to clarify production needs.
• Monday September 14, 1:00-2:45 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at SUNY Potsdam (20 participants).
• Monday September 14, 3:00-4:50 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at SUNY Potsdam (12 participants).
• Monday September 14, 7:00-9:00 p.m. JoAnna rehearsed with the cast.
• Tuesday September 15, 10:10-12:20 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at St. Lawrence University (34 participants).
• Tuesday September 15, 2:00-3:50 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at at SUNY Potsdam. (21 participants)
• Tuesday September 15, 6:00-9:00 p.m. JoAnna rehearsed with the cast.
• Wednesday September 16, 1:00–2:45 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at SUNY Potsdam (16 participants).
• Wednesday September 16, 3:00-4:50 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at SUNY Potsdam (12 participants).
• Wednesday September 16, 5:30-9:00 p.m. JoAnna rehearsed with the cast.
• Thursday September 17, 12:40-2:10 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at St. Lawrence University (19 participants).
• Thursday September 17, 2:20-3:50 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at St. Lawrence University (21 participants).
• Thursday September 17, 7:00-9:00 p.m. JoAnna screened her documentary Hästdans på Hovdala and conducted a question/answer session at St. Lawrence University. 68 people were in attendance.
• Friday September 18, 1:00–2:45 p.m. JoAnna taught a class at SUNY Potsdam (19 participants).
• Friday September 18, 5:30-9:00 p.m. JoAnna rehearsed with the cast.
• Saturday September 19, 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. JoAnna’s work, “This is a Dance,” was performed twice at SUNY Potsdam for approximately 320 audience members.
• During the week of rehearsals and teaching, JoAnna conferred/collaborated with a composer/faculty member from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam–Jerod Sommerfeldt. He composed a score for the dance. Funding a composer was not in the original budget and the composer generously worked without expectation of compensation. He was, however, able to be compensated.
Note regarding JoAnna’s classes: The content of JoAnna’s classes at SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University was drawn from these 3 workshop descriptions. She offered students unique approaches to dancing, dance technique, choreography, and performance.
1. Playing with Rule Structures, A Movement Class: The Playing with Rule Structures workshop will focus generating movement choices from inside several kinetic rule structures that combine set choreography with strategic thinking and in-the-moment decision-making. Choreographer JoAnna Mendl Shaw has built a movement practice that encourages dancers to challenge comfort zones and work with a rigorously playful daring.
2. Physical Listening, A Guided Physical Experience: Physical Listening explores our reactively untapped capacity for attending, observing and listening to moving bodies. This class begins with inner exploration and moves into full-bodied explorations in duos and small groups. Designed for movers of all levels, the class playfully challenges one’s comfort zones.
3. Choreographic Scores: A Choreography Lab: This workshop will explore several score structures and how a score can be transformed into dynamic choreography. Known for her adventurous site-specific performances for dancers and horses, Choreographer JoAnna Mendl Shaw and her dancers have translated their natural horsemanship training into a movement practice that focuses on Dancing in Real Time, making movement decisions based on necessity and using strategy as a method for defining choreographic structures.
Names of principal artists involved, including local collaborating artists
• JoAnna Mendl Shaw: Choreographer, teacher, and performer.
• Bruce Brownlee: Performer, member of the community. He volunteered to perform/improvise with JoAnna within the performance of the site-specific work, which JoAnna titled, THIS IS A DANCE.
• Jerod Sommerfeldt: Composer, Crane School of Music.
Promotional and marketing activities
Robin wrote a press release for the Office of Public Affairs at SUNY Potsdam and the office delivered it to its extensive list of media outlets. She spoke with the director of the Office of Public Affairs who was instrumental in creating an online presence for the performance and screenings–particularly on the campus website. A designer from the office created a beautiful poster which was distributed on both the SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University campuses; Robin also emailed the poster to local interested parties. Robin advertised on the SUNY Potsdam Dance Alumni Facebook page; she also sent out a mass emailing to all faculty and students at SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University.
Because part of the residency included the screening of JoAnna’s documentary which not only included dancers and horses, but also engaged performers with autism, Robin distributed letters of invitation to (a) the equine community, (b) local special education teachers, and (c) other professionals working with people with developmental disabilities.
The Potsdam/Canton communities are small, and a large portion are avid listeners to the Canton-based Public Radio station. Robin purchased 12 ten-second underwriting announcements for JoAnna’s activities.
Community/organizational partners—emphasize new partnerships
This was Robin’s first DanceForce project. Therefore, all of her partnerships were new. Working with Lois Welk as a DanceForce partner was an excellent addition to the residency because it gave JoAnna greater exposure for her work. SUNY Potsdam Department of Theatre and Dance generously gave space and funding. This residency was a superb experience for the students–not just the dance students in the classes and cast, but the many other students who attended the performances and documentary screenings. Kerri Canedy, the dance professor at St. Lawrence University was as enthusiastic as Robin regarding what students would receive from JoAnna’s expertise. Kerri was prepared in every way for JoAnna to come into the spaces and teach or screen her film. Robin is confident that both of these schools will be organizational partners for future projects.
Communities and/or special populations served, highlighting new types of audiences
The primary communities served were the students at SUNY Potsdam and St. Lawrence University, and secondarily faculty and other community members. Robin is aware of only one person who received a special invitation, who attended; she is a woman who has a daughter with autism, and she came to the film screening. Two of the directors of Honey Dew Acres attended the film screening.